Time Flies!

One year.

365 days.

8760 hours.

Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.

                                               -Nathaniel Hawthorne

One year ago, April 7, I was honTime Fliesored to be elected as the second At-Large City Council member for the City of Glenwood Springs.This anniversary, along with other prompts have caused me to reflect on this year, and the circumstances leading to my decision to run for office. In many ways, this year has flown by.  In other respects, it seems like a slow slog through knee deep mud.

Three words were prevalent in my campaign.

STRONG.  CONNECTED. COMMUNITY.

To me these words were more than an empty slogan. Although they were words that could be strung together in one sentence, they were meant to stand alone. Each word has meaning for me. They relay my values and what I hope I have brought to this position.  In looking over what I hope to accomplish while in office, words that were written as I made my decision to run, I see that some things are happening, but there is much more yet to be done.

In this series I will review some council accomplishments as well as some things yet to do.

STRONG

STRONG, RESILIENT ECONOMY AND A FISCALLY SOUND MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT

Development Code Re-write: Among my goals in this area was a revision of the city’s development code. The need for this became readily apparent while I sat on the Planning and Zoning Commission. Most land use applications that came before the commission had at least six variance requests and some came with many, many more.Yard_sign The lack of new “attainable” housing units, is a perfect example of why not only the code but the process needed to change. This is currently underway.

City Financial Backbone: The City has been using software from 1987, with the last upgrade done in 2003.  The issues included lack of integration, resulting in hours of manual entry on the part of staff. Time and attendance reporting are not automated or integrated, which requires about 70 hours of time per month. The public cannot pay for utilities, park fees, building permits, etc., on line. Reporting is slow and requires extensive staff time. We are currently underway with a new financial backbone system and it will be implemented in phases over the next two years.

Budget Process: Accountability and transparency are key in this area. Council must be good stewards of the citizen’s funds. As council liaison to the Financial Advisory Board, I have advocated for more involvement  by this group of financially astute individuals in the city’s budget process. Last year was spent observing the current process and the board is in the process of making recommendations to City Council on changes that could be made. Additionally, with the help of Interim City Manager Drew Gorgey, this board is revamping the city’s discretionary and tourism grant process to provide clearer direction and more accountability.

STRONG RELATIONSHIPS

Local and Regional Partnerships: Building these relationships will enable us to collectively solve regional issues. This council and Garfield County have a good working relationship — even if we don’t always agree. Roaring Fork Transit Authority (RFTA) has also been a great partner in our work to obtain a permanent 8th Street Connection and resolving some issues for residents in the Cole Subdivision. I sit as an alternate on the RFTA Board.

Bridge Move

Pedestrian Bridge Move

I have met with fellow council members from Carbondale and Rifle to discuss issues in our communities. The City’s relationship with CDOT has been one of cooperation. We are facing a long, difficult construction period and we must maintain a good working connection with CDOT and their contractors.

The city is continuing to work closely with the Roaring Fork School District on various school projects, including a land swap which enabled Glenwood Elementary to remain a central fixture in our core. Both city and RFSD are working to resolve an issue with the designated park lands and finalize the swap.

Additionally we have been working with a group that is interested in seeing a Detox facility built in or near Glenwood. Players include Valley View Hospital, Grand River Hospital, Garfield County, Mind Springs Health, law enforcement agencies from Rifle to Carbondale. Sadly it appears that this public/private partnership is in need of a champion to carry this forward. The city is currently at capacity, as I imagine are other entities. Any volunteers?

I am participating in Garfield County’s Economic Development Partners, Club 20 and Northwest Colorado Council of Governments as well as many Department of Local Affairs and Colorado Municipal League events.

Partners4Glenwood (P4G) is another group designed to leverage local knowledge and talent to bring a fresh approach to issues impacting the city and to lend a hand when possible.

STRONG DIRECTION

City Hall is in a transition period, which is not easy. It is not easy for staff, department heads, the public or council. City Council made some major changes in administration this year, which was not without pain. When you are dealing with real people, and making major changes it is extremely difficult. We currently have an Interim City Manager, Drew Gorgey, who is doing a great job and moving some key initiatives along. City Council is in the process of interviews for a permanent manager and we hope to have that accomplished by the end of June.

Economic Development

While we have started the ball rolling, there is still much to be done in this area. Glenwood needs to continue working to keep our local businesses thriving and those, like Meier Skis, in town. According to Place Value, a report done by the people I now work with, Community Builders, there are new trends in economic development. It is no longer about seeking and courting the big dogs. Instead it is more about Economic Gardening and knowledge based jobs. It is about training people to do the jobs that need to be done. It is about the revitalization of downtowns, the core of the city.It is about making places that people want to live and work. We know the major problem that faces many of our workers  — housing. We must continue to work to increase the amount of attainable housing for our citizens

Stay tuned for CONNECTED & COMMUNITY and thank you for allowing me the privilege of serving you.

Come Together!

Well tomorrow’s a big day for me and I am very excited!!  Election Day!

I am not sure I will ever look at another election or Election Day in the same way again – whether I am involved or not.2015-04-06_1742

First, I would like to thank all those who have supported my campaign. I am truly honored by the support of the citizens and business community of Glenwood Springs. Your support, whether time or financial support or both have enabled me to reach hundreds of citizens with my vision of a strong, connected community. For that I am truly thankful!

Our community will have a new bridge in a few years that will bring countless opportunities and last long beyond my time on this planet.  Now it is time to work on building bridges of a different nature.

In recent months various issues have caused some polarization and division between citizens within our community, between local governments, and even within our own city hall. With such great opportunities ahead of us it is more important than ever that we come together and work together to make Glenwood the best place to raise a family, start a business or just enjoy life.

What are the differences . . . really?

Aiguille_du_Midi_passerelle

photo by Rémih, from wikipedia

For several months you have been trying to determine what the big differences are between the candidates.  While it is a bit of the eleventh hour there may be some of you still trying to make a final decision. Let me help by repeating:

We must come together.

Let me explain.  Council is divided from each other and from city staff. City staff is in departmental silos as are the boards and commissions.  The city and the county are still finding it difficult to work together.  There appears to be little interaction or cooperation with neighboring jurisdictions.  Citizens feel disenfranchised.  We need a bridge builder – that can bring people together.

    I am that bridge builder.

I am excited and have worked very hard to win this election.  I am the person to help Glenwood come together and work together to get things done.

A more effective government and better relationships starts by council, in spite of some philosophical differences, working together to define a vision, goals, and expectations of themselves and city staff.   It’s a small bridge to start with, but no less scary to cross. I am convinced we can build it and cross it safely and be a better, stronger, more effective town government for it!

Let’s build a few bridges together.  We all want what is best for Glenwood.  Join me in making Glenwood a

Strong Connected Community.

I would greatly appreciate your vote!   If you have not voted, there is still time. If you did not get a ballot, please contact the City Clerk, Catherine Mythen.  You can vote until 7 p.m. Tuesday!

2015 A Crucial Year for Glenwood Springs

I am not a huge fan of poetry. Some I get. Some I don’t.  But I remember hearing the Road Not Taken by Robert Frost for the first time in fifth grade. It clicked. It still does decades later.

two roads

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood . . . “

Both Glenwood Springs and I stand at the point where there are multiple paths before us.

Glenwood is at a crucial point. What does the future hold?  Change seems to be coming from all angles and at a pace that seems overwhelming at times. The new Grand Avenue Bridge alone could bring significant changes.  It can be exciting and terrifying at the same time.

I, too, stand at a pivotal point.  Choices must be made. Thoughtful consideration has been given, but ultimately, it is simply a choice.

“Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

So like Mr. Frost, years from now, I want to be able to say that I chose the road less traveled, and it made all the difference.

The Choice: To Run for Glenwood Springs At-Large City Council Seat

The choice I have made for 2015 is to run for the At-Large seat on Glenwood Springs City Council currently being held by Dave Sturges. Dave will be stepping down after two terms, eight years, on City Council and participation in numerous other boards and commissions throughout our area. Though not large in stature, he will leave immense shoes to fill. 

Sturges

Dave Sturges

In addition to having served as councilor, he also served as mayor pro tem, chaired the Transportation Commission, and served on the Planning and Zoning Commission for six years. He was a member of the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission and currently represents Glenwood Springs on the Northwest Council of Governments board. If that all is not enough, he is on the Garfield County Senior Services Committee, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and is a member of the Colorado Municipal League Executive Board. I am sure I have missed some things. See what I mean . . . enormous shoes! 

As a mediator and facilitator, Dave has tried to carefully and thoughtfully approach issues, listening to various viewpoints and then, ultimately choosing what he thought was best for Glenwood. He has worked tirelessly advocating and lobbying for what would bring the most benefit to the citizens of Glenwood Springs.  As a citizen of Glenwood Springs I am very grateful to Dave for the perspective he has brought to the table for eight years. Thank you, sir.

Four Seats Open

Todd Leahy - Glenwood Post Independent Photo

Todd Leahy – Glenwood Post Independent Photo

In this election, four of seven seats are up; those held by Todd Leahy, Ted Edmonds and Michael Gamba as well as the one held by Dave Sturges.

This is a very exciting time for Glenwood. The opportunities are endless!  There is renewed energy and

Michael Gamba - Glenwood   Post Independent Photo

Michael Gamba – Glenwood Post Independent Photo

vibrancy. Things are happening.  But we must recognize that change is not always easy.  For some of us that fondly remember Glenwood Springs as it was “when we were kids” – when there was a Christmas tree in the middle

of the intersection of 9th and Grand, a drive-in theater in West Glenwood and a tunnel formed by trees over Grand Avenue – comes the realization that our town has, and continues to grow — whether we like it or not.

Ted Edmonds - Glenwood Post Independent Photo

Ted Edmonds – Glenwood Post Independent Photo

Growth and change is natural, like birth. It is often a painful process to get to a beautiful result. The result must not only work for the present, but for the future – for my grandchildren’s grandchildren — and yours. The answers are not always as black and white as some would have you believe. But it is City Council’s job to see that policies are in place and decisions are made with the greatest care and consideration for what is best for the community.

Kathryn Trauger

Kathryn Trauger

I bring a vision for a prosperous, beautiful, dynamic Glenwood, balanced with a sense of our history and identity. I bring integrity and experience. I bring a drive to make your local government accessible, open and inclusionary.  It is time to break down silos. Glenwood no longer has the luxury to just let things happen but must have a clear direction.

I Want to Hear From You

You will hear more about me and my goals very soon, I promise.  But first, I want to hear from you.

Listening is an important part of what I do. What are the major issues facing Glenwood?  How should City Council tackle some of those problems? And maybe more importantly, what can we do to create our future — the way that we want it?  You can leave comments here or you may email me at ktrauger@rof.net or call me at 379-4849.  Please let me know. I really do want to know what you think.

Valid Opinions or answers to the wrong questions?

Ballot Envelope

Ballot Envelope

Husband:  Hey, we got a ballot in the mail.  I didn’t know there was an election.

Me: There isn’t.  Is it for the Grand Avenue Bridge?

Husband: From Citizens to Save Grand Avenue.

Me: I heard that was coming.  They are trying to get a reading on what the citizens want.

Husband: So who gets to fill it out? There is only one. What if we don’t agree?

Me:  Hmmm, good point . . .

So if you live in the City of Glenwood Springs you may have received an envelope addressed to Local Postal Customer.  This is a well-intended effort on the part of the group Citizen’s to Save Grand Avenue to see how the citizens of Glenwood Springs feel about the replacement of the Grand Avenue Bridge.  It looks fairly official.  It is stamped BALLOT on the front but clarifies on the top of the ballot that it is a Public Opinion Ballot.  It comes with arguments for and against. 

The wording on the ballot states that “This ballot is sponsored by Citizens to Save Grand Avenue and will allow you to express your choices regarding the current plan to replace the Grand Avenue Bridge.”  Then it asks the questions:

A. Should the Glenwood Spring City Council stop the current plan allowing the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to replace the current Grand Avenue Bridge

B. Should the Glenwood Spring City Council initiate long-range planning with CDOT now to get Hwy 82 off Grand Avenue?

Then there is a place for two printed names and signatures along with addresses.

While I admire the spunk of the C2SGA group there are at least three issues with this ballot that will essentially render any results invalid.

The first problem is that of a false choice.  Question A intimates that the city has the authority to allow or disallow CDOT to replace the bridge on a State Highway.  This is simply not the case. The State of Colorado, specifically Colorado Department of Transportation, is responsible for the 9,146 mile highway system that includes 3,447 bridges. The Grand Avenue Bridge has been deemed functionally obsolete due to four deficiencies:

  • The bridge is too narrow with lane widths of 9’4”
Narrow lanes on bridge - Photo courtesy of CDOT

Narrow lanes on bridge – Photo courtesy of CDOT

  • There is insufficient vertical clearance at 7th Street – as low as 12’ in some areas
  • Substandard  horizontal clearance along I-70 eastbound to the bridge piers
  • Substandard horizontal clearance along I-70 westbound to the bridge piers
    Bridge Piers Adjacent to I-70. Photo Courtesy of CDOT

    Bridge Piers Adjacent to I-70. Photo Courtesy of CDOT

     

The bridge was rated “satisfactory” in a bridge inspection in 2010.  However, there are signs of deteriorations in the concrete curbs and piers, exposed reinforcing steel on the curbs and piers, corrosion on the railing, girder corrosion, damage at 7th Street due to vehicle impact, and corrosion on bridge supports. Additionally, the load capacity is 55% of new bridge design standards.

The funding is through the Colorado Bridge Enterprise (CBE) and assuming that after the devastating flooding on the eastern slope there are still funds available, this fund is to be used for bridge repair and/or replacement only.

The bottom line is that CDOT is working with the City of Glenwood Springs, but it is CDOT’s responsibility to make sure that the bridges on their state highway system are safe.  If they are not, they will be repaired or replaced at the will of the State. The city cannot tell CDOT to stop. If the State determines the bridge needs to be replaced due to safety concerns, CDOT will take whatever steps necessary to get the job done.  

The second problem is with question B.  I doubt there are many that would say the City should NOT explore some other options for routes in/out and around our town. This was particularly apparent during the Coal Seam Fire. However, it is important to keep in mind this has been the topic of discussion for at least 50 years.  The problem goes back to the dialog between me and my husband.  We often disagree on the best choice, whether it is where to go for dinner or what brand of appliance to buy or what route to take to a favorite camping spot.  So it goes for Glenwood.  The Citizens of Glenwood have NEVER come to a consensus on where or if there should be ways to get through or around town that do not include Grand Avenue. Perhaps there has not been enough vision about ALL of the possibilities.  Perhaps just one more study will provide the answer.  But question B indicates “long-range” planning.  I am not sure our sick old bridge will be around long enough to see what a long-range plan will be.  Can we afford to take the chance with the lives of thousands of people who cross it daily?

The third problem again goes back to my conversation with my husband and the fact that we may not agree with each other.   I am not a statistician, or a have I ever conducted a sampling but it seems to me that a sampling error is possible.

As sociologist Herbert Gans stated that “polls are answers to questions rather than opinions.”  The answers you get are only as good as the questions you ask.   But, I’ve got to admire their determination!

What do you think?

 

Are we operating in a silo?

clip-art-cows-762211

Are our boards and commissions – and maybe even City Council – operating in a silo?

I invite you to read my second article published in www.PlannerWeb.com.  I welcome your comments!

http://plannersweb.com/2013/09/are-your-boards-territory-folks/?goback=%2Egmr_2463680%2Egde_2463680_member_272594505#%21

 

Letter from John Burg to City

Many thanks to Chris McGovern and John Burg for allowing me to post this email sent to Chris and the letter sent to City Counci;
Kathy Trauger

Chris,

I appreciate your very thoughtful comments to Kathy Trauger regarding the proposed Access Control Plan. They are clearly based on a wealth of experience and knowledge. I commend you on your high level of professional citizenship.

FYI, following is the text of an e-mail that I sent to the Mayor and City Council members with copies to the City Manager and key department heads on February 14. I know this e-mail differs with many in its acceptance and support of the two new bridges. However, it is my personal judgement that the new bridges are going to happen, that the team working on them is very competent, and that the best tactic in this regard is to take advantage of the opportunities (and challenges) that the new bridges present. In contrast, the proposed Access Control Plan is (but need not be) a real disaster. I agree totally with your findings that the ACP should be taken very seriously as a binding legal document. The efforts by some to downplay the ACP’s importance by claiming that is “only a plan; will be implemented over time; or can be amended” are disingenuous.

Mayor and City Council Members:

The purpose of this e-mail is to provide comments to you regarding the two current Glenwood Springs CDOT projects: 1) the bridge project as presented at the January 9 open house, and 2) the Access Control Plan as presented at the February 12 open house. I write as a concerned citizen of Glenwood and as a retired City Planner. My professional career included playing the lead role in downtown planning and urban design in both Minneapolis, MN and Sarasota, FL. In Minneapolis I worked closely with the Mayor, other elected officials, and MDOT in the design of a new landmark suspension bridge (originally proposed as a routine, mundane bridge) over the Mississippi River into downtown. In Sarasota, I worked with elected officials and FDOT on measures to improve the connection between downtown Sarasota and its beautiful bayfront across US Highway 41. In both Cities we were able to develop plans that met the objectives of the Cities as well as the State Departments of Transportation. I believe it is possible to do that here with your thoughtful deliberations and leadership.

The Bridges

There is much positive to say about the bridge process and project. The process has been open and participatory. The consultant team has exhibited an open and constructive attitude. They seem very competent and eager to produce a context sensitive and exemplary final product. The proposed solution offers many opportunities including the redevelopment of 6th Street between Laurel and Grand as well as an improved pedestrian/bicycle bridge connecting downtown to North Glenwood. I was impressed with the ped/bike bridge design engineers. They were asking all the right questions: How can the bridge best integrate into the downtown on the South? On the North, how can the bridge best connect to the new 6th Street “village”, the Pool, and the regional trail system? What is the most appropriate bridge type? What are the aesthetics? I had the strong sense that they were eager to apply their design talents to create an exemplary and iconic bridge. I also sensed at the January 10 Q and A session that the project’s broader design team has a desire for excellence.

Recently, an urban design friend of mine in Chicago told me about the film “How Much Does This Building Weigh, Mr. Foster”. It’s about the architect, Norman Foster and is available via Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you take a look. I commend it to the bridge designers and your broader Grand Avenue team as a source of inspiration. Of course, Foster’s projects are large scale and he has great resources to work with. Nevertheless, we know that great things can happen at smaller scales and with more limited resources when the will is there. The key elements, which are exemplified in Foster’s office, are context sensitivity and the joy in striving for the heights. It’s so much more satisfying than hum-drum mediocrity – and in the end it will even bring most nay sayers on board. In the interim it will require your support, as well as that of the broader design team and those of us on the periphery. I for one will do what I can to be supportive.

The Access Control Plan

I wish I had more positive comments regarding the Access Control Plan. It’s a relatively simple project. Relatively simple solutions are at hand. Yet, it contains huge flaws. The elimination or consolidation of private access points over time, of course, makes sense. I was greatly disappointed on February 12 to again see the proposed elimination of traffic signals at 8th and 10th as well as the elimination of on-street parking. As I’ve previously noted, the 8th Street intersection is the most egregious. It’s the heart of the City – the City’s 100% pedestrian intersection. Removing this signal and its negative impact on pedestrian and vehicular cross traffic would be a terrible blow to Glenwood’s downtown. I’ve been scratching my head in an effort to understand the rationale for this (with any sensitivity toward downtown) without success. The comment of a CDOT official “I thought it would be easier to cross if you took out half of the signals” at the January 10 Q and A session added to my bafflement. Perhaps I misunderstood. Perhaps there is some sort of 1950’s pre-occupation with grade-separated crossings, that has driven a focus on the under-the-bridge crossing and elimination of this signal.

Jane Jacob’s seminal book “The Death and Life of of Great American Cities” in 1961 marked a turning point in urban planning. Planning and urban design theory and practice over the past several decades has demonstrated that in downtown contexts, people like to cross at intersections in the open air. Mixed-use downtowns with grids (the smaller the block size the better) work best. They provide the most opportunity for circulation of both pedestrians and vehicles. Severing these grids is damaging. Severing the grid at the City’s heart is unfathomable. A wide array of theory and practice supports this view including “Context Sensitive Design” and “Complete Streets” among transportation professionals. I am aware that the Downtown Development Authority is in the process of hiring an urban design consultant to address many of these issues. I urge you to seriously consider their findings.

During my professional career I have always striven for win/win solutions. I think a simple win/win solution is available here: Maintain the existing traffic signals. Synchronize the signals to accommodate peak-period Grand Avenue traffic while giving more time for cross street traffic in off-peak periods. Signal timing can easily be programmed to accommodate peak and off-peak periods during time-of-day and days-of-the-week. Given the tightness of the right-of-way and the desirability of bringing the pedestrian bridge to 8th Street (for several reasons), it is probably necessary to eliminate left turns from Grand Avenue at 8th.

There is also the issue of on-street parking. As I have previously noted, in addition to the parking spaces themselves, this parking provides a comfort buffer for sidewalk pedestrians as well as a psychological signal for vehicles to move at reduced speeds. I recognize that there are no proposals to increase the speed limit on Grand, however, we also know that motorists tend to drive at the perceived safe speed regardless of the speed limit, and that on-street parking reduces their speed.

There have been occasional implications from public officials that the pubic naturally resists change, even when it may be for the better. Having been a City Planner for 40 years I understand this resistance However, one must also be cautious in thinking that change for changes sake is good, or that change is always progress. In the case of traffic signals and on-street parking on Grand Avenue, I strongly believe the proposed changes would do major damage. The good news is that doing the right thing in this case, is the most simple and the most cost effective.

Thank you all for your honorable service to the City. I believe that you are all honestly trying to do what is best for the City. I have confidence that you will give your best to this effort, and I am hopeful for the best outcome for the City.

John Burg
1604 Bennett Avenue
947-9322